Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:02 AM

TNF - Jets at Browns

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N.Y. Jets at Cleveland (-3., 40), 8:20 pm ET, NFLN

How can a team that hasn't won a game since Christmas eve of 2016 be favored over a Jets (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS) team that looks much improved?

The rationale is that these are fairly evenly matched sides squaring off with a short week of preparation that typically favors the home team. There's also the fact that if kicker Zane Gonzalez had done his job and made a few field goals, the Browns would be 2-0, owning wins over the Steelers and Saints. Instead, their not-so-lovely parting gifts are a tie and a demoralizing setback at the Superdome just four days ago.

Gonzalez has been waived, sabotaged by a groin pull Hue Jackson says he had no clue about before all the mishaps in New Orelans. There's a new kicker in town, Florida Atlantic product Greg Joseph, a rookie who performed well with Miami in the preseason. There is also a renewed belief that this team can legitimately win some games and compete for a playoff spot, something they haven't done since winning 10 and still missing out in 2007.

Oddsmakers are cautious believers and have made the Browns (0-1-1 SU, 2-0 ATS) a favorite for the first time since last Sept. 24 when they were a one-point 'chalk' at the Andrew Luck-less Colts.

Before that, you have to go back to Nov. 30 of '15 for the last time Cleveland was favored, laying six points against Baltimore. The Browns lost both those games and haven't won and covered a game where they entered as the favorite since Oct. 26, 2014.

Despite that little nugget, the betting public believes in the Browns too, according to the early betting action. Although No. 3 pick Sam Darnold's Monday night debut in a win over Detroit gained universal acclaim despite his first pass resulting in a pick-six, the rookie's Week 2 showing in a loss to Miami wasn't as impressive. Making his third pro start on just a few days rest may allow him to focus on keeping things simple or may ultimately prove too much to overcome.

New York was favored at home against Miami by its largest closing number (-3) since the 2015 regular-season finale and had covered four of five as a favorite before stumbling against the Dolphins. Miami led 20-0 at the break, Darnold was intercepted twice and the Jets fumbled four times, losing only one. Darnold will make mistakes since he's learning on the job, but being smarter with the football is definitely a priority as he heads the road again for his Thurday night debut and third game in 11 days.

The Dolphins loss was disappointing for New York for many reasons, starting with the fact that optimism was sky high for the home opener with a new franchise QB in place and the Jets came out flat. Darnold's first pick led to a score. A Robbie Anderson fumbled led to the next Dolphins touchdown.

As they tried getting back in the game, scoring to open the second half and then immediately getting the ball back on a sack and fumble recovery from Jordan Jenkins, Darnold threw his second pick in the end zone on the very next play.

Same old Jets?

Darnold did manage to throw for an NYJ rookie-record 334 yards, getting the ball out quickly and decisively. Miami was able to run out the final six minutes, converting on multiple third downs to keep its defense from having to even take the field again, so it will be interesting to see how the first few drives in this one go. Although everyone remembers that the Lions game became a blowout thanks to a 31-point third quarter, another slow start could be the continuation of a troubling trend.

The Browns may be in the same boat since they're still looking for their first first-half touchdown of the season. Fortunately, the defense has been on point as neither the Steelers nor Saints managed to do much early against Gregg Williams' blitz-heavy approach. The unit has forced five fumbles, picked off three passes and registered seven sacks, ranking first in the NFL in turnover margin (+6).

Since Myles Garrett has been getting pressure on his own, elite quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees, lock future Hall of Famers, have been sped up. Combined, those two have 33 years of professional experience. Darnold is playing his third game.

The Jets have plenty of experience game-planning for Tyrod Taylor given his time in the AFC East running the Bills offense and have had major issues containing his arm and his legs, losing three of five meetings. We'll see how the dual-threat fares against an old nemesis in his second outing as Browns starter.

Barring injury, don't expect to see No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield get out there since Taylor has done his best work late in games and proven that he gives the Browns their best chance to win, leading the team in rushing in addition to his 443 passing yards.

Although Cleveland was hoping that Josh Gordon would return to prominence as the team's top receiver, it traded him to New England on Monday after he injured his hamstring in an event that wasn't sanctioned, finally cutting ties with him and getting a conditional fifth-round pick in return. Jarvis Landy, rookie Antonio Callaway, slot receiver Rashard Higgins and tight end David Njoku are left as Taylor's main receiving weapons while vets Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson join rookie Nick Chubb in a talented backfield.

On paper, there's more talent on the Cleveland roster than on New York's 53, but that only goes so far when you haven't tasted victory in nearly 21 months. The Jets are looking for their first 2-1 start since 2015. They've beaten the Browns in five straight, covering each time. We should see a little wind and a few gusts, but for the most part, expect a clear night on the southern shore of Lake Erie.

New York Jets
Season win total: 6 (Over +110, Under -130)
Odds to win AFC East: 10/1 to 15/1
Odds to win AFC: 50/1 to 100/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 100/1 to 200/1
Cleveland Browns
Season win total: 6 (Over +100, Under -120)
Odds to win AFC North: 10/1 to 12/1
Odds to win AFC: 40/1 to 50/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 80/1 to 100/1

Although Pittsburgh enters the week tied with Cleveland and Le'Veon Bell is set to miss another week, so the Westgate LV Superbook still has Pittsburgh (3/2) is still favored to win the AFC North with the Ravens right behind them at 11/5, up from the 4/1 they opened at. Cincinnati is the current leader at 2-0 and has moved from an opening number of 10/1 to win the AFC North to 2/1. The Browns are at 12/1, which is certainly good value since this division suddenly looks wide open and they're favored to move to 1-1-1 here.

The Jets came in ahead of only the Bills (20/1) when the season began as far as the AFC East is concerned, even with Miami at 10/1 while favored New England came in at 1/8. Despite losing to Jacksonville last week, the Pats haven't budged from 1/8 whle current leader Miami is up to 5/1. The Jets are now 15/1 and the hapless Bills are now 500-to-1, begging for some action.

In this Week 3 opener, the Browns were favored by 1.5 points last Wednesday when future lines went out via Westgate but the Browns moved to a 3-point chalk, which is where that number is curently most widely availableTere are a few shops where the Jets are getting 3.5 points. The total opened at 39 and has been bet up to 40.

If you're not looking to lay the field goal, Cleveland is around -160/-170 on the money line. New York is available at +140/+150. The team totals for Cleveland is in at 21, while the Jets are hovering around 18-19.


That productive Browns defense again won't have talented LB Christian Kirksey (shoulder, ankle) unless the team reverses course and has ruled out DE Emmanuel Ogbah. Both missed the Saints game, so there's confidence that their production can be replaced..

It would be more difficult to replace athletic safety Damarious Randall, who already has a pick and a fumble recovery but is questionable with a heel issue. Rookie corner Denzel Ward had two interceptions in his debut and should overcome a hamstring injury to participate. Landry, Cleveland's top receiver, is questionable with knee pain but should also play.

The Jets are the healthier of these two teams and have definitely played the lighter schedue, so we'll see if that aids their chances of pulling out a road upset. Safety Marcus Maye (foot) and LB Josh Martin will miss another game and have been out of the lineup, but WR Quincy Enunwa Ithumb) and guard James Carpenter (foot) will play. Young receiver ArDarius Stewart has served out his suspension and is also available.

RECENT MEETINGS (N.Y. Jets 6-2 SU, 6-2 ATS last eight; UNDER 5-3)

10/8/17 N.Y. Jets 17-14 at Cleveland (NYJ -1.5, 41.5)
10/30/16 N.Y. Jets 31-28 at Cleveland (NYJ -2.5, 45.5)
9/13/15 N.Y. Jets 31-10 vs. Cleveland (NYJ -3.5, 39.5)
12/22/13 N.Y. Jets 24-13 vs. Cleveland (NYJ -1.5, 41.5)
11/14/10 N.Y. Jets 26-20 (OT) at Cleveland (NYJ -3.5, 37)
12/9/07 Cleveland 24-18 at N.Y. Jets (CLE -3.5, 47.5)
10/29/06 Cleveland 20-13 vs. N.Y. Jets (CLE -1.5, 37.5)
11/21/04 N.Y. Jets 10-7 at Cleveland (NYJ -1.5, 38)

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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